In a mock serious tone I made a comment: “But the conditions that apply for the get-together are that the girls would come early to my place and the boys would leave late”. “But why?”, was a common chorus. Perhaps they were disappointed that the girls and the boys will have different dinner timings to segregate them, as I was a warden too and had to be careful about the rules! “Well, nothing special”, I continued, “only because the girls will help me in cooking and for that they need to come early and the boys will help me clean the kitchen, and for that they need to stay a little longer! We all were very happy as the new magazine, Srijan–2005 had been printed and it was wonderful. We needed a celebration.
A look of relief on their faces made me laugh. So happy were they to have some good time together that even the fear of boring household chores didn’t daunt them! So finally we all decided to have a get-together to celebrate the coming out of Srijan-2005. The mood at the informal meeting where it was decided was euphoric but I still had my doubts (kept them wisely to my own self)!
How would it be possible for me to prepare dinner for almost thirty persons single handedly and that too at the time when renovation was going on in the house. Whole of the house was in shambles and for any reasonable get-together, there was neither the time not the place. But how could I say all this to a group of enthusiastic group of youths who were just looking for this gala event. As if on a cue to set my fears to rest, Saurabh Kulshreshtha, the tallest among all in our Team Srijan, came to my office the next day and very generously offered to cook at my home. He looked so excited that just could not say “no” to him. “Dum Aloo” was what he planned to cook for the entire group the next day.
The D-day was full of excitement. Coming a bit early from the Institute, I found whole of the house in doldrums. There was dust all around as the bathrooms were being tiled and what not. Come March, and the Government funds start flowing down the drain and this time it was just not a metaphor but the funds were really flowing down our bathroom drains! I suddenly developed headache thinking about the busy time ahead. But changing to my work clothes, immersed myself in cleaning the house, to make it a little habitable for the evening. In between ran to the kitchen to do the preliminary preparation for the dinner. By five in the evening, I had put the house in order (so I thought), had prepared Channas, chutney, Mixed vegetable, and also had kneaded the dough and waited it to rise by seven in the evening so that could deep fry the Bhaturas by the time Team Srijan would arrive.
But where were Kulshrestha and Rajput, they were to come early to prepare “Dum Aloo”? I tried contacting them through chat but they both were offline. Suddenly the door bell rang and there was the duo, looking smart and happy. Kulshrestha ran straight to the kitchen and I was pleasantly surprised to find him so comfortable in my kitchen. He needed a single orientation to the kitchen and he really learnt fast. By that time girls too had arrived and some of them came to the kitchen straight away. Suddenly the kitchen started looking so small! Nidhi was assisting me to roll out the Bhaturas that we spread on the kitchen slab, Shipra ,who is from Dharamshala, gave a helping hand to us. Like an instructor, I was giving my advice wherever needed. Khushboo and Ipsita also wanted to try their hands at rolling out Bhaturas but as it was not a child’s play, they soon left the arena with their petite hands smeared with kneaded dough. Rahul, was busy capturing every moment on his camera. We all wanted to give our best shot but he would capture us at our worst! A real “sting operator” in the making! Gajendra surprised us all. A very soft spoken boy from Rajasthan, was the fastest learner in the kitchen. He fried the bhaturas so efficiently and enjoyed the job perfectly. He was reminded of “Dalbati- Churma” of Rajasthan. This is what the feeling of home does to you. Priyanka was so taken over by this homely ambience that time and again she would exclaim to me that she felt like being in her own home, assisting her mom. And surprised me at times calling me “mummy”, inadvertently! Suddenly everything started running so smoothly. I was running in between to make my presence felt but whole of the kitchen was literally hijacked by the Team Srijan! Priyanka, so efficiently, started to assist Kulshrestha and Rajput took the job of an errand boy to run to the market to fetch what the chef asked for. Right job Mr. Editor, befitting you.
I would go to the Drawing room to sit with all those who were relaxing in the ambience of a home after such long time. Another group was sitting in another room, on pc, searching and playing the songs on it. Some others were browsing through the books and some artistic souls were critically analyzing paintings I had made long back, but still adorned the walls of the gallery. It was wonderful. The home really reverberated with so many of young voices filling it with a youthfulness that made it young! Dinner time was getting a little late as Kulshreshtha was making piece-a detour to impress all of us in general and one Miss X in particular by his culinary skills!
Dinner time was announced and all those who were relaxing till now, geared up to take up job to serve dinner. I just don’t know from where they got hold of all the crockery and started with serving the first group. The real fast learners, I would say. And when I went to the drawing room, I was pleasantly surprised to find the first group sitting o the carpet and eating voraciously. Nothing ever gives more pleasure to a mother than to see that the children eat well and this was the feeling that overwhelmed me that moment.
The second group started soon after and now just six of us were left. Aditya was the one who now had taken over the job of handing the Bhaturas to Priyanka who still was busy frying them. So the last leg together was taken by myself, Priyanka, Kulshrestha, Aditya, Gajendra, and Nidhi. We were tired but exhilarated! The errand boy Rajput was assigned to serve us water and just to tease him Kulshrestha gulped down a number of glasses of water as he enjoyed Rajput running to the kitchen bringing more water for us.
Dinner was over but nobody was in a mood to leave. We sat for some more time together talking of so many things and laughed a lot. Everyone had something interesting to share with the group and many secrets came out from the cupboards to which I was the prime listener. They forgot at times that they were with a teacher! And I really enjoyed it.
Time to depart. It was almost 11PM, and as I wanted to escort the girls back to the hostel so I went along the group and bidding goodbye to the girls came back to my home, this time the boys escorted me back. It felt good to have such attention from the boys! Back home, the sink full of utensils was the only physical mark left by the Team Srijan group, which was soon obliterated by me. But the mental mark that it has left, is permanent, never to be obliterated. Wonderful memories of the good time that we had together.
Thank you Team Srijan!